The year is half(ish) over and so that means it’s time for Board Game Quest’s picks for the best new games we’ve played thus far. As with every year, these picks are not only objectively correct, but they will also definitely be proven completely wrong within six months time. I’ll leave you with these questions before we dive into the picks: Which one of the four-dozen games Andrew bought night-one of GenCon will he select? Will I regret my pick seconds after we publish like I did last year? Will Brandon just ignore the prompt entirely and go with Oath even though it’s not a 2022 game? The answers to these questions and many more lie ahead, Questers. Read on!
Chosen by Chris:
I definitely stole this pick from at least one of my esteemed colleagues here at Board Game Quest and I don’t feel bad about that at all. I’ve actually played a decent chunk of new games the first half of this year and the only one that truly burrowed its way into my brain has been Twilight Inscription, the complicated (but not overly so) flip-and-roll-and-write. There’s decent player interaction (which is usually absent in this type of game) and you can take practically any path to victory and still have a good shot at winning. Cubitos, my pick from this time last year, faded away as the BGQ staff tallied the votes for our year-end awards, but I guarantee Twilight Inscription will not only fare better, but it will likely improve its standing as more people play it on a regular basis. Everyone needs to stop reading this list immediately and go track down a copy of this to play. Like… now.
Foundations of Rome
Chosen by Tony:
After Gen Con this year, I had to give this one some thought. There were some great games released at the show (see our recap here). But I have to give the nod to Foundations of Rome. It’s a game I’ve already played quite a few times and I just love it. The production values are off the charts, easily one of the best of the year. And the gameplay is very accessible. Buy a lot, place polyomino-shaped buildings, collect points and money. Yet the game also comes with a number of modules to add in some depth and variety—monuments, trading and stealing, player powers, and even cooperative play. Foundations of Rome has turned into a game that I’m always eager to bring to the table.
Chosen by Spencer:
Wonderland’s War is an easy pick for me. It’s my most played game of the year, and I’m still itching to play it more. This one fits into that crunchy medium-weight, less than two hour playtime sweet spot for me. I love both distinct halves of the game—the tea party phase where you build your bag and board position and the combat phase. The combat is an exciting push-your-luck mechanism that strikes a great balance to give you just enough control over the outcome while providing plenty of stand-up, tense moments. There are several fully viable paths to victory, which I’m always a fan of. You can make the strongest bag, go heavy on quests (objectives), or focus on upgrading your faction board. A winning strategy will demand a different mix of these every game. Did I mention all the variety and high-quality components? Swooooon.
Chosen by Brian B:
As I wrote in my recent-ish review (Ark Nova Review), Ark Nova is currently my favorite board game. I will play this game anytime someone asks/I force them to play it. Every card is unique, from the animals to the conservation projects. Building your zoo is WAY more fun than it should be. The action card slot mechanism and balancing playing an action now versus waiting for it to be more powerful, while not new, works great in this game. If you enjoy combo games with unique cards and powers (similar to Terraforming Mars, but better, in my opinion), then I highly recommend you try Ark Nova.
Root Marauder Expansion
Chosen by Brandon:
As one of the few BGQ team members unable to get to GenCon, I’m relying on earlier releases and much fewer options. Regardless, one of the best additions of 2022 arrived with Root’s newest release, The Marauder Expansion. With an already entrenched fanbase and plenty of content, this expansion adds much more than just two new factions (Lord of the Hundreds and Keepers in Iron, both of which are incredibly fun to play). The addition of hirelings varies the landscape of each session, bringing minor factions that shift allegiances, as well as a new advanced setup to give players more agency with faction and location choices. I will never play without the advanced setup, which I feel is now essential, and the new hirelings find space in our three-player sessions to add more board presence. I’d recommend The Marauder Expansion as the go-to expansion for Root, making it an essential purchase for a highly respected game.
Return to Dark Tower
Chosen by Brian W:
My most anticipated game for 2022 is also my pick for the best. Restoration Games delivered a game that not only filled a nostalgic need from my childhood but created a game that the adult in me loved from the get-go. The production values are amazing and the app interface and how Tower interacts with it is so slick and fun. Don’t get me wrong, as a player, I don’t want corruption skull tokens to fall out of the Tower, but it’s a thrilling aspect to see where they land on the board. I have yet to play the competitive mode but my group and I have had fun with each cooperative play against the different adversaries. Overall, I’m so happy to have Return to Dark Tower in my collection and see this one being played by my group and family for a long-time.
That Time You Killed Me
Chosen by Jason:
I love a satisfying two-player, abstract strategy game. That Time You Killed Me kills it (I know what I did). With a ruleset underpinned by time travel, you are taking out your opponent across the past, present, and future, the underlying motivation being whoever remains is the inventor of time travel. Actions you take in the past echo to the future, such as planting a seed sprouts a tree, a powerful tool you may push onto your competition. Bumping into a copy of yourself in an era causes a paradox, wiping you both from existence. Adding to this satisfying gameplay, as you progress into future games, you’ll be introduced to new challenges that heighten and change the experience. I haven’t felt so ready to play another round of a game since Shobu. That is, until That Time You Killed Me.
Guild of Merchant Explorers
Chosen by Andy:
Well, of course, my choice would be Envelopes of Cash, my own Self-Published game which combines solid Euro principles with the classic American theme of paying college athletes under the table. I still have about 80 copies unspoken-for, so hit me up if this interests you.
For second place, I think my vote is for Guild of the Merchant Explorers. Every review I’ve read, watched, or listened to of this game makes the same two jokes: (a) that the name was generated by an AI and is hard to remember because it just seems like a word salad and (b) it feels like a draw-and-write game that somehow got turned into a cube-and-board game by mistake. But then they grudgingly say how much they like it anyway. Well, I have no trouble remembering this game is about a group of money makers who explore, i.e., a guild of merchant explorers which by the way has the fun nickname of GotME. Also, I don’t see the draw-and-write comparison because to me, the essence of a roll or draw and write is the column and row comboing of your Yahtzee score pad which GotME doesn’t have. The game is quite light and quick and my wife and I can play it three times in an hour for a good “best two out of three” and have a really fun time. We took it with us on vacation in a Ziploc gallon bag instead of the far-larger-than-needed box it comes in. I think this is going to be a game I teach people for years to come.
Chosen by Matt:
As it turns out, I haven’t played that many games from 2022 yet. But so far, I’d go with Three Sisters as my favorite of the year. It’s the second in a line of weightier roll-and-writes by Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, following Fleet: The Dice Game and preceding Motor City, due later this year. In the game, players plant and water crops (corn, beans, and pumpkins) in their backyard farm. You’ll also be harvesting fruits, keeping bees, and rooting around in your shed for useful tools to score combos. And man, are the combos satisfying. In Three Sisters, you’re building an engine to trigger loads of actions off the back of a single die choice. When the game gets going and you’ve filled your shed with awesome abilities, you’ll be checking boxes off on your sheets like crazy. Feels great. Three Sisters is a solid competitive game, although there’s little player interaction. And that’s fine by me. I’m perfectly happy playing multiplayer solitaire. But the solo mode is also great. Strangely, it’s more interactive as the solo AI comes over to your sheets and crosses off boxes, denying you the ability to plant crops or complete shed items in the affected areas. This doesn’t happen in the multiplayer version (neighbors don’t interfere in your garden), so the solo game creates an alternative play mode that changes things up and requires different strategies and tactics depending on what the AI does to mess with you. All in all, Three Sisters is an enjoyable roll & write experience, providing crunchy decisions and gratifying combos both competitively and as a solo venture. And did I mention there’s a pie safe?
Marvel Dice Throne
Chosen by James:
Sticking to games that came out this year was tough as there hasn’t been a clear number one for me. But in the crowded “really good” category is Marvel Dice Throne. I’m a sucker for the Marvel theme and have enjoyed battling as different heroes (and Loki) against each other. It sets up and plays quickly and each character plays differently enough that I keep going back to see how each one plays. Additionally, your opponent also factors into your game experience as you being struck by Mjolnir or watching Black Widow’s explosives countdown feel different. All of my Marvel-themed games, except Dice Throne, are cooperative so this makes it stand out a bit until I break down and buy Crisis Protocol which I don’t need but oohh terrain!
Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go To Ghost Town
Chosen by Andrew:
There are two Gen Con purchases definitely in the running—Planet Unknown and Twilight Inscription are great but I’m still just not 100% sure exactly how much I love them. But there is one game this year that my love is unquestioned, Psychic Pizza Deliverers Go To Ghost Town. It’s already my most played game of the year. Despite having a 30-ish minute play time we almost always find ourselves playing it at least twice when we get it out. Players take the role of pizza deliverers trying to find a pizza and take it to the right house in Ghost Town. Someone must run the game and, after players move, give them Minesweeper-esque clues about what is around them. It’s fun, silly, and more than a bit random. But it’s never let me down yet.